The Bears did not make a deal before the NFL’s trade deadline passed at 3 p.m. Tuesday. The only notable thing to happen with the Bears on Tuesday, actually, was a report from the Chicago Tribune that right tackle Bobby Massie will miss a month with a knee injury.
So the Bears’ offensive line will push ahead with an undrafted free agent at left guard for, in all likelihood, the rest of the 2020 season.
You might be screaming into your screen right now: Why? How? Why?
So a few explanations here. First: The Bears, internally, did at least consider adding offensive lineman in the last week or so. That doesn’t necessarily mean the process went beyond mere consideration. But there was not inaction within Halas Hall as the trade deadline approached.
But to trade for an offensive lineman, you have to find a team willing to trade an offensive lineman. That's easier said that done in a league where O-linemen are at a premium, even for bad teams.
Two obvious candidates – the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons – are without general managers. And the Texans, after years of mis-reading the market under Bill O’Brien (see: the Laremy Tunsil and DeAndre Hopkins trades) still seemed to mis-read the trade market in, reportedly, asking for a second-round pick in exchange for wide receiver Will Fuller.
If the Texans wanted a second-rounder for Fuller – a high price for someone who’ll play seven or eight games, max, before becoming a free agent – then were they really motivated to trade, say, guard Zach Fulton? Probably not.
The Falcons didn’t make a trade before the deadline, too, despite having some players (like edge rusher Takkarist McKinley and guard James Carpenter) who could theoretically interest teams around the league.
And if the Texans and Falcons – two teams that desperately need both cap space and draft picks – weren’t motivated to make a trade or two, it might speak partly to dysfunction in those organizations. But also, it could speak to the general trade climate in 2020, which was sleepy amid the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Any teams that traded for a player Tuesday would not have him available Sunday, due to the NFL’s requirement that player pass six days of testing for the novel coronavirus. Also, teams seemed wary of trading for players with significant salary cap figures – either in 2020 or beyond – with next year’s salary cap potentially falling by over $20 million.
And with those salary cap challenges comes an added importance of hanging on to 2021 draft picks. Hence teams’ unwillingness to part with anything higher than a fourth-rounder.
Focusing back in on the Bears, I’m also not convinced they are an offensive lineman away from being legitimate Super Bowl contenders in the NFC. It wouldn’t have hurt to trade for someone, but only if the price was right – and it doesn’t seem like any prices were right. Maybe trading a sixth or seventh-round pick for a veteran backup wouldn’t have been a bad idea, but the Bears could always just sign a free agent veteran backup in the coming days and not burn a draft pick to get that guy.
Pace, too, has not been aggressive before the trade deadline. He’s made one pre-deadline deal in six seasons as Bears GM, trading a conditional seventh-round pick for wide receiver Dontrelle Inman in 2017.
Standing pat at the deadline is not a dereliction of duty from Pace. It’s not a disaster. It’s not a fireable offense.
The problem is, if you get to the deadline and have red-line issues to fix, you’re probably not going to be able to fix them at the deadline. That’s where the Bears stood at 2:59 p.m., and it’s where they stand at 3:01 p.m. on Tuesday. And it's where a lot of other teams around the NFL stand right now, too, having not done anything before the trade deadline.